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Taliban: The Unknown Enemy Hardcover – May 24, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kirkus Reviews, 5/15/11
“An intriguing argument for negotiations with the Taliban presented as the necessary precondition for a political settlement and withdrawal.”

Boston Globe, 6/1/11
“This sympathetic and eye-opening account should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Afghanistan.”

San Francisco Chronicle, 7/31/11
“Fergusson’s critique of the West’s failures in Afghanistan is devastating, and his insightful conversations with Afghans, including Taliban and their supporters, are very much worth reading.”

Reference and Research Book News, October 2011
“Fergusson…offers a portrait of the history and current status of the Taliban in which he hopes to counter Western images of the group as mere ‘bearded bigots’ and to impress upon the reader that the only way out of the mess that is the war in Afghanistan will be through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.”

 

About the Author

James Fergusson is a freelance journalist and foreign correspondent who has covered the Taliban extensively. He is also the author of the award-winning book A Million Bullets. He lives in Edinburgh.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306820331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306820335
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,965,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sören Franson on June 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I actually read the latest updated edition, called "Taliban: The True Story About the World's Most Feared Guerilla Fighters," which can be found on the UK Amazon site.

This book is a very good read and it will provide insight into the situation in Afghanistan; how and why the Taliban came to power and then were (temporarily?) dethroned by the US invasion, Al Quaida's role in Afghanistan, as well as how other nations interests have influenced the war. It also show how the coalition forces are being used by various clans as (unknowing) pawns to exact revenge in generation old vendettas, and how their [the coalition forces] cultural insensitivity and/or ignorance is only increasing the Afghan people's willingness to support the Taliban.

I saw one reviewer who thought that Fergusson was excusing the Taliban's punishment of violations against the sharia laws, and I think that is incorrect. Fergusson was trying to supply context and when possible, the Taliban's reasons (however absurd they may seem to a western reader) for enacting the ban on TV and kite flying etc - he was not making excuses. Providing context and explanation is not the same thing as excusing.

To sum this up; this book provided me with a lot of information (and again; context) which western media has (willingly?) ignored and/or failed to provide. I agree with Fergusson's conclusion that the only way to end the war in Afghanistan is through dialog with the Taliban followed by a complete withdrawal of all foreign troops.

(Now, if we could only get the ISI to bud out as well...)
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By maskirovka VINE VOICE on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I initially thought I'd give this review "James Fergusson 'hearts' the Taliban" as a title. But that wouldn't be fair since I think the book and the author's ideas have some merit.

I'm giving the author five stars for proposing something that the United States seriously needs to consider...doing a deal with the Taliban that will allow the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan without having to worry that it will revert to being the de facto "treehouse" for all manner of global jihadist groups. I also give him kudos for taking the trouble to actually talk with the Taliban and former Taliban himself rather than rely on secondary sources).

I'm open to the idea of doing a deal with the Taliban because I've grown increasingly skeptical that the United States and its allies can do very much to establish a "nice" system of government there. And I believe that the recent lynching of UN workers in Mazar-e Sharif in response to the antics of Terry Jones indicate that there really isn't a lot of daylight between "Taliban extremists" and "nice Afghans." Would it be great if Afghanistan was a functioning country with emancipated women, constitutionally protected freedoms? Sure. But in the end the United States needs to have is a situation where the country won't become a launchpad for terrorist attacks throughout the world once again. If the Taliban can deliver on that, I'd be happy to strike a deal with them because it's in the interest of the United States.

The problem with this book is that Fergusson really does bend over backwards to excuse, minimize, or otherwise wave away all the odious aspects of the first Taliban regime (The brutal public executions? Hey, some of those killed were guilty! The gender apartheid?
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The Lazy Book Reviewer on November 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Fergusson brings us a refreshingly different view on the Taliban and their history and role in Afghanistan. A well researched book debunking some of the common myth's associated with the Taliban.

After reading this book I feel I have a much better understanding of Afghansitan and the issues facing the troops on the ground. I take my hat off to the author for a gutsy realistice look at the Taliban.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I wish I had the time and money to buy and read this book, but I don't. However, in posting a forward by Chuck Spinney (1980's whistle-blower on Pentagon fraud, waste, and abuse) at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, I linked to the Amazon Page and saw the gap here. Below are just two paragraphs from a great review by Chuck Leddy at the Boston Globe search for it, it is worth it:

EXTRACT 1: But what these Western reports never quite explained, Fergusson notes, is how the Taliban brought law (however harsh) and order to a nation that had rarely seen either. Today, Fergusson reports, the Taliban are riding a growing wave of anti-Americanism and anti-corruption sentiment triggered by both US military operations and strong support for Karzai, who is considered unusually corrupt by the standards of a country where governmental corruption is the norm.

EXTRACT 2: One disillusioned local official tells Fergusson, "Warlordism and insecurity have returned, and the people are fed up. They are ready to welcome the Taliban back again.'' Indeed, the Taliban are coming back just when the Obama administration has reduced US forces in Afghanistan. Fergusson makes clear the differences between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Many of those inside the Taliban told Fergusson that they would welcome an agreement with Washington that would swap the exclusion of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan for an American pullout and foreign aid.

To complement this "third hand" appreciation, here is one book that I consider a six star and beyond on Afghanistan, and that I have read and reviewed--it cuts to the heart of all that the USA does NOT do:

Surrender to Kindness: One Man's Epic Journey for Love and Peace
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